Michael and Nina Wheeler Submitted

BETHEL — For the past 42 years, Nina Wheeler and her husband have been giving Christmas to families in the SAD44 area who are in need through their nonprofit program called Christmas for Families.

Gifts which are donated by members of the community include, but are not limited too: quilts, hats, give warm clothes, socks, blankets; people have donated material for making pillow cases, candles (for moms and teenagers); and the biggest gifts, which Nina emphasizes the most, are board games such as checkers or Monopoly that bring the family together.

She wants families to have gifts that they can all use together. She emphasizes the gifts are not only for young children, but parents and teenagers as well. Christmas for Families gives parents wrapping paper and tape so they can wrap the presents for their loved ones themselves.

Those who would like to receive gifts for their family can find applications at Maine Street Realty on Railroad St. There are a set of double doors; the first door is unlocked and you’ll see the applications against the wall before the second set of doors. Fill it out and put it back in the box with the paper folded.

Applicants will need two references, from clergy, doctor, school teacher, etc. to qualify. Or, recipients can ask their doctor, Community Concepts, or town manager can reach out on their behalf. It is all completely confidential.

When Wheeler describes the community feedback to Christmas for Families, she says she is moved, and shares a few stories about how the community responded to Christmas for Families.
Last year, a young man, about 19 or 20, came with his girlfriend. They brought gifts for the children because he had remembered they had helped him when he was younger and he wanted to give back.

Another story included a family buying extra gifts for Christmas for Families with their stimulus money in 2020. They were grateful for the times when Christmas for Families had helped them back in the day and wanted to give back.

During 2020 in the pandemic, a family from Mass. who had a second home in Maine, gave gifts to area families through a local friend. They respected the distance Mainers need to have between “outsiders” and still donated.

Wheeler  has three other women who have been helping her for over 20 years. People ask Wheeler if she’s going to retire after four decades of doing nonprofit work. She responds, “as long as there is a need, we will do it.”

To get in touch with Wheeler, please contact her at her email: [email protected] or at 207-836-3600.

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